View Full Version : Gulf Council News Update
09-14-2006, 03:11 PM
If you look at the press release you'll see one of the new members is Harlon Pierce. Harlon owns a commercial fish house in Kenner. The name of it is Harlon's LA Fish, located on 606 Short St. Kenner, 504-467-3809. I used to know Harlon and he was really a nice guy. I just have to wonder now, though being elected to the Gulf Coast Council, which way he's going to vote. I'll have to bet it's not going to be for the recreational fisherman. The link below is to Harlon's ad in the yellow pages.
09-14-2006, 03:13 PM
This is a letter I sent to Bobbi Walker,
This is a copy of the letter I sent out to around 350 recreational fishermen from La. to Fla. Bobbi, can you make sure the recreational fishermen get a fair shake. I'm going to post it on Rod-n-Reel.com so all the recreation fishermen in the state will know about it.
09-14-2006, 03:52 PM
Thanks for posting that.
09-14-2006, 05:03 PM
I am going to steal your post any put in over on 2coolfishing.com (mainly Texas fishing website)
09-14-2006, 05:29 PM
I am going to steal your post any put in over on 2coolfishing.com (mainly Texas fishing website)
Spread the word.
09-16-2006, 05:40 PM
Here is an informative article written this week by one of our RFA Texas board members, Tom Hilton.
The Snapper Manifesto
September 13, 2006
A Case Study of Mismanagement by The NMFS and Gulf Council
The lucrative Red Snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) is the most highly sought-after sport fish in the Gulf of Mexico, and there is a life-or-death battle being waged for the rights to this fish as we speak. Recreational fishing, Commercial fishing, and Shrimping interests all have claimed a piece of the pie, and they ALL have a right to at least a portion of it. Unfortunately, the NMFS and Gulf Council control this fishery and have a long history of twisting facts and figures to suit their respective agendas, while simultaneously ignoring pertinent data that is contrary to those agendas. Consistently, their actions have favored the commercial sector at the expense of the recreational and shrimping sectors although the commercial sector provides (out of the 3 sectors) the minority benefit to the nation as a whole. This is in violation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, Section 301, 98-623 #4 where it states; “…If it becomes necessary to allocate or assign fishing privileges among various United States fishermen, such allocation shall be (A) fair and equitable to all such fishermen; (B) reasonably calculated to promote conservation; and (C) carried out in such manner that no particular individual, corporation, or other entity acquires and excessive share of such privileges.” The commercial sector accounts for up to $50 million in economic benefit to the United States while the recreational sector contributes over $8 BILLION, (it’s not even close) yet commercials can fish year-round, are allocated a majority percentage of the TAC, and are given additional days to fish due to inclement weather. This is not fair and equitable, as the recreational sector enjoys none of these advantages despite the exponentially-larger impact that recreational fishing has on coastal economies as well as national marine trades manufacturers.
We need a sea change in how the resource is allocated, and we need it NOW.
First, let’s address the big scapegoat that everyone wants to blame; shrimper bycatch. In 1990, the Magnuson Stevens Act mandated a 50% reduction in the bycatch volume. At that time, there were about 8,800 shrimping vessels on the water. Since then, due to economic and natural forces, the number of vessels has dropped to about 1,300. Add in the modest efficiency of the TED’s / BRD’s (about 13%), and we’re looking at a reduction of well over the mandated percentage. Yet, today we have Gulf Council members, the CCA, and others saying that nothing can be done until the shrimper bycatch issue has been resolved. Why? It is quite clear that it has already been resolved, but these people adamantly refuse to acknowledge the obvious. Again, why? Well, it could be said that they are using the shrimper bycatch as a distraction to deflect our attention away from the real problems here - I’ll go into those in a minute, but first, let’s focus on the task at hand. There is one big (but simple) question that needs to be answered; Should shrimping vessels be allowed to shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico? Yes or No? I don’t believe No is an option, as it would simply open the door to foreign shrimping vessels as mandated in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, Section 201. So that leaves us with Yes. The question really is not whether shrimpers should be allowed to shrimp in the Gulf, but rather; What is an acceptable level of shrimping effort? That number has already been established by the Secretary of Commerce - Amendment 13 delineates a cap of 2,200 vessels and is sitting on the Secretary’s desk awaiting his signature. This cap of 2,200 vessels is a level that we (and the snapper) can live with. Couple this with pro-active mitigation activities, such as habitat creation designed specifically for the purpose of improving the survivability of the juvenile snapper, and we believe that shrimper bycatch can and will become a total non-factor in the management of Red Snapper. Development of Permit Reefing Areas where low topographical relief habitats consisting of shell substrate in combination with high relief habitats will result in astounding results if given the chance. Since these areas would be free from trawling activities due to the possibility of losing nets, the immediate benefits would be; (1) These areas would allow snapper (plus shrimp, crabs, and other creatures) of which a percentage would have died as bycatch to live and thrive, and (2) Since these juvenile snapper and other creatures have a very high mortality rate due to predators, the habitat provided will further increase their survivorship.
09-16-2006, 05:41 PM
What are the real problems mentioned above?
One really BIG problem is the refusal of NMFS and others to use the best available data as mandated by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, Section 301, 98-623 #2; “Conservation and management measures shall be based upon the best scientific information available.” Recently, the Gulf Council, at the August meeting, voted to delay any vote on TAC reduction until the latest data is made available regarding the effects of hurricanes Rita and Katrina on the different sectors. Roy Crabtree, the Regional Director made it clear that he was authorized by his boss, Bill Hogarth, to over-ride their vote and implement the lower TAC anyway. The NMFS realizes that if they wait for the data to come in, there is a very good chance that it will show that there is no need for TAC reduction at this time, and is indicative of their unwillingness to acknowledge data that is contrary to their agenda.
Other examples are;
A. What is the actual number of snapper in the Gulf? In 2000, NMFS claimed there were only 4 million snapper in the entire Gulf, yet the U.S. Geological Survey report stated that there were 8 million snapper on the oil platforms alone at that time. In addition, there were tens of thousands of other known natural structures conducive to snapper habitation not taken into account here, as rigs only account for about 1% of the area of the Gulf. NMFS refused to acknowledge this CRITICAL fact. Another example of NMFS’ denial is illustrated in the following quote from the Shipp-Minton letter, dated March 7, 2006; “Alabama has sampled red snapper populations (fishery independent) within the established artificial reef zones for a number of years, but personnel at NMFS say that the data aren't compatible with their data because they weren’t collected over natural hard bottom and therefore they will not include them in their analyses. Knowing that 35%-40% of all recreationally-caught red snapper from the Gulf of Mexico come from the areas offshore from Alabama, it is surely worthwhile to substantiate whether this perceived incompatibility is real or not. If it’s real then steps should be taken to make the data sets compatible if possible.” To my knowledge, NMFS has taken no action towards this very important matter.
B. Commercial effort has been grossly underestimated. The 2005 figures from the Gulf Council show that only about 4.1 million pounds were landed commercially - this equates to about 18% of (active permit) capacity. Simply put, the Gulf Council is assuming that only 23 (out of 130)! active Class 1 permit holders and 81 (out of 452)! active Class 2 permit holders went out and caught their trip limit 6x per month x 11 months to achieve this 4.1 million pound landing total. The Gulf Council would then be forced to assume that the other 82% of the permit holders did not fish at all. Based on conversations with law enforcement personnel and other people on the docks, this scenario is HIGHLY unlikely. Another way to look at the same figures is this; On average, each permit holder went fishing and caught his trip limit about once per month - nobody can make a living that way. The overabundance of permits (there are actually 137 Class 1 and 628 Class 2 permits out there) sets the stage for overcapitalization, as commercial snapper fishermen have mortgages to pay, families to feed. We believe that the commercial sector is responsible for landing closer to 20 million pounds of red snapper annually for the last 15 to 20 years. We believe that NMFS’ refusal to acknowledge both “1A”and “1B” is due to the fact that both of these indicate a much larger biomass existing in the Gulf than they want to admit. There needs to be an immediate reduction in commercial permits by about 80%.
C. Lack of Enforcement. The egregious commercial overfishing is the BIGGEST problem with the snapper fishery today, as there just not enough enforcement, and if by chance they are caught, the penalties are too weak – just another cost of doing business. One recent bust over here in Texas revealed that the fishermen on board had a combination of 60+ PENDING SNAPPER VIOLATIONS between them, yet they were still out there fishing. Incredible.
D. IFQ’s will crash the fishery. The Gulf Council recently approved IFQ’s (Individual Fishing Quotas) for use in the commercial sector. IFQ’s are viewed as the “cure all” by environmentalists and Gulf Council members for the fisheries ills, but I assure you, this cure is worse than the sickness. There are several major flaws with IFQ use in the Gulf of Mexico; 1) Simply changing the law has no meaning if EXISTING LAWS are not being enforced. This Council and the NMFS have repeatedly cast a blind eye to the egregious illegal commercial fishing occurring over the last few years, and IFQ's will make enforcement exponentially harder. In addition, I have not seen one commercial fisherman stand up and protest the impending TAC reduction – seems to me that they would be highly upset if their quotas were being reduced. Apparently they know that since nobody is currently minding the store, it will be no different with IFQ’s – in fact, it will be much easier. 2) IFQ's in New Zealand, Alaska, and elsewhere have very stiff penalties if fishermen are caught cheating, such as $400,000 fines and mandatory jail time. These penalties are glaringly absent from the IFQ plan submitted to the Secretary of Commerce by this Gulf Council. Why? Penalties are a very important part of the equation, and without them, IFQ’s will not work, and the fishery WILL crash. 3) The Red Snapper belong to every American - handing over ownership of 51% of this resource to a small number of individuals is not something that should be done - especially when 22 of these 42 permit holders have had major felony violations in the fisheries according to law enforcement. This is again in violation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, Section 301, 98-623 #4 – A, B, & C! Al Capone would be proud of you Mr. Crabtree.
Big $$ in bad fisheries management.
There needs to be a study done on how many studies are being done and how much money is being generated for the people doing these studies. If you look back in time at this problem, you will see the same players addressing the same issues over and over, year after year – a self-perpetuating cycle called “fishery dependence”. Apparently, if there is a solution found that would bring the snapper up to acceptable levels, then there would be no need for funding further research. You will also note that the goals often are moving targets, so as things improve, the standards are set even higher. Standards need to be set in place that are “fishery independent” to remove the profit motive from the researchers via fishery independent while at the same time setting in place initiatives that will actually achieve those goals.
Focus has been solely on the harvest, not the cultivation.
Everything that is on the table at the NMFS and Gulf Council level deals with managing the harvest of the fishery – nothing is being done to replenish the fishery via time-proven methods such as artificial reefing. In addition, the oil platforms installed in the Gulf during the last half century have unwittingly come to serve as artificial reefing habitat. MMS plans to remove up to 4,000 of these structures in the next 10 years or so, yet our fisheries managers are ignoring this looming ecological disaster. The more rigs that are removed, less habitat is available, and more pressure is placed on the remaining structures causing more harm to the populations of fish living there. Alabama fisheries managers had the vision several years ago to develop 1,260 square miles of barren, sandy bottom offshore of Alabama into artificial reefing permit areas. Since that time, several thousand artificial reefs have been deployed in these areas by government agencies as well as by private citizens resulting in astounding success! As noted in paragraph 1A) above, this 40 mile stretch of Gulf produces up to 40% of all recreationally caught red snapper in the entire Gulf of Mexico, yet, for some reason the NMFS does not want to acknowledge the importance of that data (oh yeah, they’re fishery dependent). In my opinion, any agency charged with the management of this very important resource who ignores this type of data is incompetent at best!
Artificial reefs are economic engines for coastal communities.
Florida State professors Bell and Bonn quantified the value of the artificial reefs off of the Florida panhandle to the adjacent communities and found that the reefs contributed over $400 million annually. (Remember, this is only from Panama City to Pensacola). The Alabama reefing areas contribute about $320 million annually to Alabama coastal communities (or about $8 million per linear mile of coastline). It is a win/win scenario for all involved; 1) The red snapper benefit as the increased habitat provides increased production of their numbers, 2) The fishermen benefit because they are catching more fish each time they venture offshore, and 3) The state and local communities benefit from the increased revenues generated by the reefs.
There needs to be a reality check instituted into the process at all levels. A Fishery Independent system needs implementation immediately that would manage the Gulf of Mexico fisheries in a manner that is TRULY best for both the fish and United States Citizens.
Thomas J. Hilton
Recreational Fishing Alliance – Texas
09-16-2006, 05:53 PM
The time to act is now !
Please fax the letter linked below, to Secretary Gutierrez, to stop the IFQ’s and halt a reduction in the Recreational Total Allowable Catch. As it stands now, we the recreational sector, are looking at a reduction to 7,000,000 pounds and a four month season with a few weekends thrown in.
Please click here http://www.rfatexas.org/snapltrgutirrez0606.htm for a downloadable letter, print it out, sign it, date it, and include your address. Fax your letters to (202) 482-2741 Let's burn up their fax machines!
vBulletin® v3.8.1, Copyright ©2000-2013, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.